Microsoft recently announced that TechNet subscribers would have a free benefit to use Office 365. The fulfillment of this was discussed at: http://windowsitpro.com/microsoft-office/another-promise-kept-office-365-free-technet-subscribers.
Unfortunately, quickly after that announcement Microsoft also announced the upcoming retirement of TechNet. Information on this decision is available at: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/subscriptions/ms772427.aspx.
There has been upset from the community over this decision. Discussion is occurring at: http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/17dce8ef-a813-4abd-943b-481640e1973c/microsoft-reconsider-technet-retirement
And an online petition has been started at: http://www.change.org/petitions/microsoft-corporation-create-an-affordable-msdn-subscription-comparable-to-technet
Per the FAQ, “The last day to purchase a TechNet Subscription through the TechNet Subscriptions website is August 31, 2013. Subscribers may activate purchased subscriptions through September 30, 2013. The TechNet benefits portal and the subscriber downloads page will remain available for non-Volume Licensing subscribers through September 30, 2014.”
So if you are an existing subscriber or you subscribe before August 31st, you retain TechNet benefits through September 30, 2014. This blog post will discuss how to activate your Office 365 benefits, how to access the Office 365 portal and how to install Office 365 software including an example device (an iPad).
Activating your Office 365 benefits:
If you have a TechNet subscription, you can activate your Office 365 benefits from: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/subscriptions/manage/
Clicking on the “Activate Office 365” option indicates that it is a one year free trial:
My attempts to register at the Office 365 portal – failed with a message that “Sorry, that didn’t work”.
I am new to Office 365, but I was lucky that fellow MVP Sean McNeill was there to explain what I wasn’t understanding to a level that a non-MVP in Office 365 could follow along. If you company has an Office 365 tenant, it is best to use in-private browsing because if you company is using identity federation it will try to use those credentials (which won’t match your personal TechNet subscription). In-private bypasses this and allows you to log in with your own credentials versus your company’s credentials. Another option is to use a different browser.
[Summary – If you hit the error above try using in-private browsing]
The next step is to fill in your information for your free trial.
This brings you to the Office 365 portal!
Accessing the Office 365 portal:
The portal is available at: https://portal.microsoftonline.com/Admin/Default.aspx. When you initially access it, there are several items which will be provisioned as shown below.
The Outlook web application option later became available:
Email flow worked as expected as shown by the test email to/from my new Office 365 account.
Installing Office 365 Software:
Office 365 includes the latest version of a variety of Office software (shown below).
But, let’s say that you have an iPad. The truth is, fruit is not banned at my house. We often purchase bananas, strawberries and more and my daughter is in process of training to become an iPad Ninja. 🙂
So I was really curious to see what I could do with Office 365 on an iPad. As a first step on this, I opened the iPad and closed out all open safari windows. To access Office 365 I browsed to the portal at: https://portal.microsoftonline.com/
I logged on using the credentials defined earlier [the format is (username)@(organizationname).onmicrosoft.com]. The portal worked fine on an iPad and I was able to access my email as shown below. Pretty cool!
On the software tab, there were not as many options available for iPad as there are for Windows platforms, but options exist for Lync and SharePoint currently.
Doing some digging online, I found that Office mobile is available for Office 365 users at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/office-mobile-for-office-365/id541164041?mt=8.
I installed Office Mobile and while it’ is not as fully featured as the full Office versions, it does allow quick access to documents on Skydrive or on a team site. You can open and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. A few examples of the user experience are shown below.
Office mobile is not as fully functional as what will be available in the future I expect, but works pretty well for Office type documents on an iPad.
Summary: The Office 365 benefit within TechNet is functional and easy to use. If you have a TechNet subscription this is something you may want to check out. The iPad functionality available within Office 365 is currently somewhat limited but this can be augmented with Office mobile and I expect that iPad functionality will be more in line with other devices in the future.